Widening horizons

13th June 2003 at 01:00
Headteacher Rod O'Donnell tells Karen Shead how his secondary is broadening its ideas of enterprise

Enterprise education is high on the list of priorities at St Paul's High in Glasgow, where headteacher Rod O'Donnell now realises its full potential is not only in links with the world of work but also in other activities.

"We have always been involved in initiatives such as industrial awareness days and work experience, but we wanted to broaden out the idea of enterprise and in the last three years that is what we have done," he says.

One of the first initiatives was a link with Scottish Power, which gave pupils the opportunity to learn about work-related topics such as customer care, motivation and performance. Then came along an initiative by Glasgow City Council which introduced pre-vocational courses, giving pupils the chance to learn skills not easily taught in the classroom such as bricklaying.

The activities Mr O'Donnell is more enthusiastic about are ones initiated by the school. "One of the best initiatives we have seen is through the home economics department," he says. "They got involved with a restaurant called the Three Sisters, which was made possible by financial backing from the Greater Pollok Development Company.

"It was enterprise in its purest sense. A school, a local company and a social inclusion partnership all got together and created opportunities for children."

He also cites a poetry booklet, which combined the work of the English department with the business studies and art departments. The idea of working together on an enterprising activity is one Mr O'Donnell is keen to see happen again.

The school's involvement with the Prince's Trust has created enterprising activities too.

"The third year Prince's Trust group took on a St Valentine's Day project in a very business-like fashion," he says. "These were students who traditionally could have been seen as failing in this school. But to see the success of that event was a statement itself about alternative approaches to learning.

"An activity day with Rolls-Royce was an enterprising use of industry experts," he continues, "and it developed the core skills: communication, information technology, problem solving, numerical analysis and teamwork."

Pupils worked in groups of 10, setting up a mock business. "We got outstanding feedback from the company and the kids loved it," says Mr O'Donnell.

"We also added our own core skill of improving your own learning and performance," says development officer Linda Telfer, whose role is to develop career opportunities for the pupils.

"The day went exceptionally well and Rolls-Royce has agreed to run it again."

Mrs Telfer believes that ever more schools are recognising the importance and benefits of enterprise education.

"You can see the change in young people," she says. "It gives them an inner confidence as they are being given the opportunity to mix with adults in an adult environment.

"It also creates a nice morale."

Mr O'Donnell sees enterprise education in a much broader context since discussions with primary colleagues. "From them I realised that we hadn't realised the full potential of enterprise. When we talked about it we thought it must link with the world of work, and in a sense that is true.

But primaries also link it with other areas.

"For example, if you run a school play you have to put together the same components as if you were running a West End show. You have to ensure that something that begins as an idea ends up as a public performance. Although you never look at it as an enterprising activity, in fact it is.

"Talking with primary headteachers challenged my view on enterprise education and the advice I took was to think of it as something which should be developed right throughout school. This is the best piece of thinking that I can pass on."

Mr O'Donnell is encouraging more enterprising activities within St Paul's High.

"I've addressed my principal teachers and want them to come back to me on how their curriculum could lead into enterprise," he says. "Although the history teacher may have to think more deeply than say the home economics teacher, there is still as much potential there.

"If enterprise works, and already I have seen it working, it will develop core skills. There's no doubt about it. The time students spend at school will be better for them and they will be well equipped to go out to work.

"If I can do these three things - develop core skills, improve their self-esteem and give them success in an area that isn't expected of them - I will be a happy head."

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